by Trevor Connell
With Tweedledee and Tweedledum dominating our media as they vie for our votes (and bore us with their so called “leaders debate”) it was a delight to tumble into a world of make believe and entertainment at SCEC last week.
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: ‘No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw Alice coming. ‘There’s plenty of room!’ said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.
‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.
‘There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.
Instead of the March Hare and the Dormouse we were greeted on arrival at Sydney’s Event Showcase by Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen and the White Queen. Just a little confusing as we seemed to have seamlessly segued from Alice in Wonderland to Through the Looking Glass, but an encouraging start.
So what did this Wonderland have to offer?
There was no tea – but plenty of coffee to sustain one through the day and later there was wine with bubbles in it.
And there was plenty of room – looking at the floorplan in the Official Event Guide it was apparent that the show, along with ABEE next door, had shrunk since last year.
So I spotted a bottle marked DRINK ME …
However, this bottle was not marked ‘poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.
‘What a curious feeling!’ said Alice; ‘I must be shutting up like a telescope.’
And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden.
… OK, so I didn’t shrink to ten inches high but I did find some lovely gardens on some of the stands and I tasted delights ranging from paella to a soft serve cone. And there was a giant mushroom that I could nibble on to adjust my size to suit the floorplan.
Despite the shrinking floor plan I’m advised by ETF that visitor numbers were up by 10% on last year. Exhibitors told me the visitor flow was slow at times and quite busy at other times, similar to the experience of previous years.
The key attraction for visitors to these trade shows is to see and experience new products and services – so what was on offer?
A few years back there was a pulsing water wall on show that had people intrigued, this year I was intrigued by the FogScreen. This is a gadget that vaporises water which is sandwiched between two blades of airflow. A standard data projector is then used to rear project images onto the fog. The effect is of a rippling image that appears quite solid – until someone walks through it, making it a perfect product for reveals. The fog doesn’t make the carpet underneath damp and of course it won’t affect smoke detectors.
Another new product is a shoe shine service for events – which can carry sponsorship; I’m sure the will clean up.
While the Event Showcase was a lively affair next door in ABEE it was more businesslike and the usual venues, destinations and services were being showcased in the way we have come to expect.
The feature seminar was presented by Cheryl Cecchetto to a packed seminar room. Cheryl was warmly received and regaled her audience with behind the scenes stories of the major annual events she has produced over many years including the Oscars Governors Ball, the Emmys Governors Ball and G’day USA Black Tie Gala.
What I took from her presentations is that Australians still seem to do more with less. The money thrown at the events Cheryl described would leave most Aussie event producers gobsmacked. One event she produced had a ten day bump in – for a one night dinner! Two days is pretty much the most you would get in Aust.
Cheryl also shared her thoughts on running her team and there is a very good article on that in BizBash.
While most of the seminars were held in one of SCECs breakout rooms the panel session that also featured Cheryl was held in the larger draped space in Hall 6 – with an interactive kitchen next door – with audio bleeding through. Sorry but it does make sense to schedule presentations like that so they don’t clash.
So what is in store for next year with the closure of SCEC?
ABEE came out of Sydney on Sale (a trade show) which in turn evolved from Sydney: Destination One which was an event, the first one staged in the cargo hall of the Overseas Passenger Terminal (the space now taken up by restaurants).
Sydney’s Event Showcase started life as RSVP Sydney at Wharf 8 (now demolished as part of the Barangaroo redevelopment) which certainly resembled a trip down a rabbit hole where visitors meandered through the terminal and temporary structures.
When RSVP Sydney outgrew Wharf 8 the owners of the show were encouraged to maintain the event feel of the show and not turn it into a traditional expo. A suggestion at the time, proposed by Meri Took from Staging Rentals, was to utilize the RHI and Hordern Pavilion, with a Hoecker in between. Maybe it’s time to revisit that idea. I certainly think it would be a better option than Glebe Island.
The Party After Dark
I’ve written previously about the PAD becoming nothing more than an industry piss up and this year was no exception. Great venue, great food and beverages, but not an event. OK it is problematic in the current economic climate to expect suppliers to keep on giving for these events and the great parties from years gone by such as the burlesque party at Home in 2007 and the one at the Old Melbourne Goal in 2010 may be no longer viable.
In 2011 the RSVP Melbourne PAD was held in the same venue as the expo (Royal Exhibition Building) but it just didn’t work, visitors were moved from the show floor to an upstairs area for the party and it didn’t really connect back to the expo.
Why not have the PAD in the expo? Just extend the closing time to 8 PM and serve food and drinks from and throughout the stands. Pump up the entertainment on stage and throughout the show floor. Or better still segue into the Hordern for a party that really showcases entertainment and design.
The key to this would be to promote the show to buyers who can’t get there during the day. EAs and PAs are now a key buying demographic for our industry – so invite them to a cocktail party and impress them with what we have to offer.
Show them what Google cannot.
Let them taste and experience something they cannot find on a website.
Take them to Wonderland.
So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality — the grass would be only rustling in the wind, and the pool rippling to the waving of the reeds — the rattling teacups would change to tinkling sheep- bells, and the Queen’s shrill cries to the voice of the shepherd boy — and the sneeze of the baby, the shriek of the Gryphon, and all thy other queer noises, would change (she knew) to the confused clamour of the busy farm-yard — while the lowing of the cattle in the distance would take the place of the Mock Turtle’s heavy sobs.
The Wonderland entrance to Sydney’s Event Showcase was designed and installed by Visions In Style and the very interactive performers were from Acts on Show.